Stairs & Transitions / Escaleras y Transiciones

Wentz camp & pool, L.A. Cann Drive, Ponca City, Oklahoma (2006)

(Versión en castellano sigue más abajo).

Stairs are transitional spaces, by definition. As we climb or descend stairs, we are in no concrete place: we are moving to “Y”, we are coming from “X”, we are walking on air. Since they imply “change” and changes are difficult per se, stairs are metaphors of life itself. Ascents sap our energy; descents are hard on the knees. We climb or descend the staircase in the hope of eventually reaching a permanent equilibrium but in reality we can only aspire to the precarious and time-bound relief offered by the next step.

Gates and thresholds show us back and forward. Staircases show us up and down. Both, thresholds and stairs are liminal spaces and, as such, they are potentially risky spaces and yet open to imagination and creativity.

An infinite escalator, as a transitional element between heaven and earth, appears in that 1946 British movie titled “A Matter of Life and Death” (also known as “Stairway to Heaven”) directed by Michael Powell y Emeric Pressburger (down below is the movie poster). Up there, an angelical heaven; down below, a colorful earth. The movie combines powerfully crafted imagery with a very entertaining and intelligent story-line. It is in this fictional stairway -lined by the statues of important historical characters- that the most philosophical and interesting dialogues of the movie take place.

The idea of transition elements is comforting for us humans because a step is not a huge distance to be overcome. It is only the height that little step ahead of us what needs to be conquered at any given moment *

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Stairs connecting main floor and patio, Hammer museum, Los Angeles, California (April 2016)

Las escaleras son espacios de transición por antonomasia. Al subir o bajar las escaleras, no estamos en ningun lugar concreto: nos dirigimos a hacia “Y”,  venimos de “X”, caminamos en el aire. Dado que implican un cambio y los cambios son dificultosos per se, las escaleras son metáforas de la vida misma. Los ascensos desgastan nuestra energía; los descensos son duros en las rodillas. Subimos o bajamos con la esperanza de alcanzar un equilibrio definitivo pero sólo podemos aspirar al precario y temporal equilibrio de un escalón. Inestabilidad hasta que alcancemos el próximo escalón, y así sucesivamente, ad Infinitum.

Los umbrales definen el adelante y el atrás. Las escaleras definen el arriba y el abajo. Tanto los umbrales como las escaleras son espacios liminales y, como tales, son espacios riesgosos, indeterminados, abiertos a la imaginación y a la creatividad.

Una escalera mecánica infinita fue imaginada en aquella película británica de 1946 titulada “A Matter of Life and Death” (también conocida como “Stairway to Heaven”) de los directores británicos Michael Powell y Emeric Pressburger (abajo, el cartel de la película). La larguísima escalera de “A matter of Life and Death”conecta dos mundos absolutos : el cielo angelical de los difuntos y la tierra multicolor de los vivos. Y es en esta escalera, ornada por estatuas inmensas de figuras históricas relevantes, donde ocurren las conversaciones filosóficas más interesantes de la película.

La idea de un elemento de transición reconforta pues no es una distancia inmensa la que debemos salvar: es sólo la altura de un escalón-el próximo escaloncito enfrente- lo que tenemos que superar *

a-matter-of-life-and-death

BalboaIslandCA_Stairs

Balboa Island, California (February 2015)

 

 

4 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking of your blog post for the last few days, especially as I go about campus and reflect on the ‘change’ underway by me and my students going from class to class, like from one world to another. It’s a very interesting observation….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a University is like a cooking pot: lots of chemistry going on in there… Both teachers and students undergo constant change. And it occurs very rapidly, for the most part. Thanks for enriching this post, Angel, with your own imagery!

      Liked by 1 person

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